Itsuki Hirata recently celebrated her 23rd birthday. The difference in age between her and upcoming opponent Seo Hee Ham is over a decade but the Japanese fighter feels she is approaching her prime.

Hirata has been training in New York to prepare for this atomweight title eliminator at ONE 163. She has an opportunity to leapfrog the #2 ranked Korean and earn a shot at reigning champion Angela Lee.

Hirata is coming off a win and feels that the timing is perfect,

β€œI got a big win in the last fight and I have improved. I think my prime time is coming soon.”

Prime time

Her β€˜prime time’ will need to come this Friday because Ham is without doubt the best opponent the Japanese star has ever faced. She comes into the contest as an underdog and acknowledges that her opponent has the bigger reputation,

β€œFor me Seo Hee Ham is a legendary fighter and a big name but I will try to make it just a normal fight.”

Last time out she missed weight by 4lbs. But Hirata says she only accepted that matchup against Lin Heqin at short notice and assures fans she will have no difficulty making the atomweight limit tomorrow,

β€œFor this time it’s not going to be a problem. I just need time (to make weight).”

After the win over Heqin she returned to New York. Hirata has chosen to base herself in the US and says she has been working on every aspect of the MMA game,

β€œI have been training in the US with specialists in grappling and striking.”

Toughest opponents

Her older brother, Naoki Hirata, made his US debut last weekend and suffered the second defeat of his career. It was a setback for the bantamweight but his sister is still hoping they might both end up competing on the same ONE Championship card one day,

β€œUnfortunately me brother lost his last fight. In the future I would like to fight on the same promotion as my brother.”

Seo Hee Ham is well known in Japan because she is a former Deep-Jewels atomweight champion and Rizin super atomweight champion. A recent poll by Abema showed 80% of the fans there thought the Korean would win.

But Hirata is not worried and says these are the type of fights she is in the game to get,

β€œI’m not worried about Seo Hee Ham. I want to fight the toughest opponents.”